EATON, Ohio — An annual tradition for an Ohio family took a surprise turn this year.
Private First Class Gustavo Rios-Ordonez was killed five years ago when he stepped on an explosive device while serving in Afghanistan.
Every year on his birthday, his widow Tiffani Rios and their two daughters write on balloons and release them to send messages to the fallen soldier in heaven.
His daughters were just 2 and 7 months old when he died.
“They didn’t really know him,” Tiffani Rios told The Today Show. “But it’s a good way for them to do something for him, it creates a good little memory.”
The balloons have a message from the girls as well as a date and location from where it came from.
This year, one of those balloons traveled roughly 850 miles to Newton, Massachusetts.
The deflated yellow balloon was found by Heidi Kern Schwartz while she was walking to pick her son up from school.
“I found this balloon in Newton, MA on Tuesday, June 7,” she wrote the Facebook page of the town’s Veterans of Foreign Wars. “It says ‘I love and miss you daddy. Eaton, Ohio. 5-25-16.'” On the other side of the balloon it read “Elizabeth.”
Schwartz said she wanted to find Elizabeth to let her know just how far her balloon traveled.
Through the power of social media, Schwartz and Rios got in touch and Schwartz sent the balloon back to Ohio.
Rios told The Today Show that while the girls don’t understand how far the balloon traveled, it’s through this amazing feat that their father lives on.